A ‘McKenzie Friend’, named after the case which established the legal principles in 1970, is a person who assists another person in legal proceedings in open court when the person who is party to the proceedings requires support – for example, on account of a physical or mental condition. In such cases, the ‘litigant who is not legally represented has the right to have reasonable assistance from a layperson’. McKenzie friends are not paid and normally are not legally qualified in any way.
Often, a McKenzie Friend is a family member or friend, but there are also charitable organisations which provide them as a service and they can also be provided in certain circumstances by a social services department.
Although the Courts Service documents on McKenzie Friends state that there is a strong presumption that the use of a McKenzie Friend will be allowed, the court may refuse permission where the judge forms the view that the assistance he or she has given, or may give, impedes the efficient administration of justice.
The McKenzie Friend’s rights in court are limited to the following:
- To provide moral support for the litigant;
- To take notes;
- To help with case papers; and
- Quietly to give advice on points of law or procedure, issues that the litigant may wish to raise in court or questions the litigant may wish to ask witnesses.
A McKenzie Friend cannot address the court nor examine any witnesses. To do that, a right of audience (such as is held by a solicitor) is required. Neither can a McKenzie Friend sign documents for the other person nor manage the case.